American students studying abroad through their American colleges in Taiwan are being forced to leave Taiwan, in some cases against the students’ wishes.
This comes as the United States has officially reported its 100th death. The number of cases has surpassed 5,800 according to CNN, but testing in the United States has received repeated criticism.
Only 125 per 1 million Americans have been tested for COVID-19. This contrasts with South Korea who has tested over 5,000 per every 1 million citizens.
Since testing in the United States is not necessarily free or widespread, the number of cases is likely much higher with many citizens likely having the disease and spreading it unknowingly.
Furthermore, in the United States, the coronavirus response has been haphazard and unsystematic.
若是美國政府持續提出建議卻沒有最後執行辦法，即交由各州、郡自行頒布政策，實施自主隔離措施、關閉學校、進行檢疫等 – 例如德州有254個郡，而各州防疫措施不一致，導致目前病毒持續擴散。
As long as the US government continues to make suggestions instead of executive decisions, it is up to each state and county to enforce quarantines, close schools, and conduct testing—Texas has 254 counties for example. This has left an inconsistent approach to coronavirus that has so far failed to contain the spread.
With this background in mind, American students being forced to leave Taiwan feel like they are being thrown into danger.
“My county has 3 times as many cases as all of Taiwan, and my state has over 10 times as many cases.
It’s safe here! Why are they forcing me to go back? Plus, I would have to stand in customs for 8 hours or more with thousands of people from all over the world in a confined space.
It’s literally the opposite of what we are supposed to be doing,” says Nancy, a student from New York. Her sentiment is repeated across all interviewed students.
When asked why their schools would make them go to a country that is more dangerous than Taiwan, many said it was because the schools did not know what to do and were just following protocol.
“When I received my email saying I had to go home, the language was written like a mass-email to all study abroad students, most of whom are in Europe.
There was no room for discussion. There was no consideration for the situation in Taiwan,” says Bryan, a student from California studying in Massachusetts.
“Everyone was talking about my health and my safety, but going home is the worst possible thing for that. Leaving Taiwan is counterintuitive to the reasons my school listed for why I should leave.”
Caitlyn, who attends a university in Washington D.C., was happy to hear she could sign a liability waiver to stay in Taiwan, but that her school had not fully won back her trust.
“The wording in the form made me feel guilty like I was defying my school and their best wishes. There was an ‘I told you so’ tone where if I did get sick, my school tried to help me but I refused to listen. But my hometown is currently in a 3-week lockdown! Why would it be safer to go back?”
When interviewing a staff member for study abroad in Taiwan who wishes to remain anonymous, they supported students’ sentiments while also adding perspective for the decisions by many U.S. universities.
“I never argued to keep students in Taiwan, but I did present all the information which argued for the students. It just makes sense to stay here. That said, some schools still said ‘no.’ I think they are simply following the protocols put in place, but some of them never asked if they were appropriate for this current and unusual situation.”
The staff member also added: “When the virus was in Asia and not in the US, no one in Taiwan went home. The situation today isn’t any different here, but suddenly there is panic in the US and now the students have to leave?”
*names have been changed to respect students’ privacy